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Published by the Society in the Ripon Gazette, 1st May 2009
David Winpenny, Chairman of Ripon Civic Society, prompted by a letter in last week’s Ripon Gazette, looks at the problems of Ure Bank Top.

John Gordon’s letter in last week’s Ripon Gazette highlights the problems of the Ure Bank area of the city and takes the Civic Society to task for being silent about ‘a part of Ripon that has gone down in the world’.

There are undoubtedly problems with parts of Ure Bank, and the Civic Society is well aware of them. In fact, this column has mentioned them several times last year – in January the terraces were singled out for their special value, and in April the ‘shameful neglect’ of the Maltings – a listed building – was deplored.

When the Society was consulted by Harrogate Borough Council in 2007 as part of the reappraisal of Ripon’s Conservation Areas, members of the Society’s committee spent a (rather damp) evening looking closely at Ure Bank. As a result, the Society recommended in its response to the Council that the Conservation Area should be enlarged to take in the terraces and the Maltings.

Unfortunately the Council’s officers decided that the boundary of the Conservation Area, which runs behind the houses on Ure Bank Terrace, should remain unchanged. The Civic Society was asked by Cllr Don Mackenzie, Harrogate Borough Council’s ‘Heritage Champion’ to comment on this decision. He wrote, ‘Our officers suggest that [the terraced houses] have been greatly altered, suffering loss of original windows and doors, and are consequently of insufficient merit to be included’.

The Society responded: ‘The Ure Bank Top terraced houses are, like any terrace, a mixed lot, but we believe that there is enough surviving original material in the street to warrant its being included. Some of the owners have made great efforts to keep and enhance original features; they should be encouraged by the inclusion of the terrace in the Conservation area, which might also act as a stimulus to others. We suggest that, although some original windows and doors have been lost, this is no more the case than in some other terraces within the conservation area - eg Lickley Street, which also has some stone cladding; at least Ure Bank Top has escaped this. We should strongly urge the including of these houses, especially as they are quite a rare example of the smaller, humbler terraces in Ripon.’

The Society also underlined its concerns about the Maltings; ‘On a related subject, we are concerned about the Maltings at Ure Bank Top. They are listed Grade II but are in dire condition. Please can you let us know if HBC is intending to tackle the owner on the matter? This is a fine, honest building, and cannot be allowed to deteriorate any further.’ As far as the Society is aware, no action has yet been taken; the committee will pursue this matter and continue to lobby for the better protection of the whole area.

Since the closure of the railway the Ure Bank area has certainly had problems. It is now an area that has a mix of different styles of houses and businesses. There are inherent problems with the narrowness of the Ure Bank Top road and its use not only by business but by people using the caravan site at its end, on the site of the former POW camp.

It is perhaps understandable that there is reluctance by the Council to add to the Conservation Area. Beyond the line of terraced houses there are some other short rows and individual buildings, some formerly related to the railway and others to the Maltings. They would merit the extra protection that Conservation Area status would (or at least should) give them, but the industrial and decayed buildings between might not merit such inclusion. The Civic Society believes, though, that this is not an insurmountable objection – there are plenty of problem areas already within the rest of the Ripon Conservation Area.

Of course, merely giving something a special status does not mean it will magically improve. There needs to be a real effort to improve the whole area. No doubt consideration has already been given to a new road that will bypass the narrow road and open a way to the area beyond. It could go north of the Ripon Land Rover showrooms and would give access to the whole area. The Maltings could then more easily be regenerated (how about an edge-of town business hotel?) and the industry and business community could be encouraged to tidy up their premises.

This needs vision and work, but it can be achieved. Ripon Civic Society agrees with Mr Gordon that ‘Here is just the place that needs restoring to its former glory’; it will do whatever is within its powers and remit to help bring that about.

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